Volvo Race organizers find their new home


March 05, 2006|By JULIE SCHARPER

Local coordinators for the Volvo Ocean Race will open offices on Annapolis' City Dock as early as April 1, city officials said.

Ocean Race Chesapeake and the Maritime Heritage Festival have reached an agreement with Brian Whitehead, who owns a three-story building on City Dock, said Michael Fox, vice president of Ocean Race and a member of the festival's board of directors.

Ocean Race Chesapeake will fill the first floor of the three-story building at 4 Dock St. with retail space, offices and a check-in area for race volunteers, said Frieda Wildey, a board member for the Maritime Heritage Festival and the maritime liaison for the city's economic development office.

The second floor will contain festival offices, Wildey said. The city plans to renovate and open the offices more than two weeks in advance of the predicted arrival of the ocean-racing boats April 15, 16 or 17, Wildey said.

Fox, a former city alderman, said that he noticed about two weeks ago that the former Marine Electronics building was unoccupied. He contacted Mike Miron, coordinator of the city's economic development office, who approached Whitehead about letting the city use the property.

"I was very happy to oblige," said Whitehead, an Edgewood resident who owns HUB Capital Partners on West Street. Whitehead, who said that he acquired the property about a year ago, is waiting to obtain permits from the city to lease the building to a seafood restaurant.

The deal with the maritime groups will be finalized after city employees and contractors inspect the site early next week, said Fox, who led officials on a tour of the building Friday.

"Ocean Race Chesapeake and the Maritime Heritage Festival have worked out an agreement to move forward with Brian Whitehead," said Fox. He praised the convenient location and the view from the roof of the building.

The roof of the property has a hot tub and wrap-around bar, said Jan Hardesty, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office. "It will be great for a reception," Hardesty said.

Local offices for the Volvo race, which has passed through Annapolis every four years since 1973, were housed in less impressive buildings in the past, Wildey said. In 1998, race officials huddled in a tiny construction trailer. In 2002, they borrowed the ground floor of the Maryland Natural Resources Police building.

The proposed location "is within spitting distance of the race village," Wildey said. The race village's booths and vendors will stretch from the harbormaster's office to the brick terrace known as Susan Campbell Park.

More than 50,000 visitors and 6,000 spectator boats are expected for the race, Wildey said, adding that the 2002 race brought in more than $54 million in revenue for the state.

The Dock Street site will require maintenance work before offices can be set up. The building sustained heavy flooding during Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 and will need new carpeting, Hardesty said.

Wildey anticipated a communal effort to prepare the building for the racing event offices: "We'll have a work party where we'll come in and paint and clean everything."

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